“There is a deep, deep world of music out there”: Michael Fedyshyn on 5 at the First’s “Sound the Trumpet…and Violin!”

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.

Michael Fedyshyn, Principal Trumpet, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra

As I review my notes from my interview with Michael Fedyshyn, Principal Trumpet of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra (HPO), I wince at what is, in hindsight, an ingenuous question. I asked if there is a song that describes his work ethic, hoping to prompt a bit of deep thought and through it, a reply that might surprise us both. Well, I’m thoroughly surprised! Fedyshyn does not narrow down one pithy response. Instead, he offers a thoughtful rumination on the many musics that inspire him: “I like music that tends toward being complex, or intricate. I like hearing lots of colours and sounds, and interesting rhythms.” He then goes on to annotate a list of composers and artists, starting with Bach (“forever and always Bach”) and ending with Jane Siberry  (he gets slightly starstruck when he runs into her at a neighbourhood park). He punctuates this already longish list with an expansive finale: “There really is so much that I listen to from all types of art music, and also jazz, various styles of modern music, Balkan folk, show tunes, opera, electronic… it’s really hard to pin it down….” Based on the depth and detail of his reply, it’s clear that he’s reflective and indefatigable . . . and his interests are extensive. Though an orchestra musician making a living where classical repertoire predominates, he has musical tastes that are broad, deep and eclectic. And he is erudite and approachable about matters musical and otherwise.

So I settle in for our chat, which begins with a question about his upcoming 5 at the First concert “Sound the Trumpet…and Violin!”, which he will perform with cellist Rachel Mercer, pianist Angela Park and violinist Bethany Bergman (who is also his wife). He explains that this particular program originated as a “pitch” to 5 at the First Artistic Director and National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) cellist Rachel Mercer during a rehearsal break – and the pitch started with the Ewazen Trio, which he and Bergman have played before. “Rachel ran with that,” he says, and she suggested other repertoire, which they discussed over email until arriving at the program to be performed this Saturday. “Some of the pieces obviously have no trumpet, so I didn’t contribute to those,” Fedyshyn points out, “but the Biber Sonata IV is something I’ve never done, and I’m looking forward to it, as Biber wrote a great deal of wonderful repertoire involving the trumpet.” And much as he looks forward to revisiting the Ewazen (a “lovely piece” that he describes as American “in the best sense of the word – open, honest, and optimistic in the vein of Copland and Hansen”), he is also intrigued by the Barnes —  since he feels there is a lot of Canadian music that “rarely gets played that deserves to be heard. Then of course the Piazzolla Tangos,” he smiles, “pure fun, and sort of our own arrangements adapted to fit me with the violin, cello, and piano.”

As a musician who performs live on a regular basis, Fedyshyn has strong views of what constitutes a good live performance. “A good performance is one where the audience feels they’ve been told a story, or feel as though they’ve been taken on some sort of journey,” he muses. “Performing should be about communication, and involves taking risks, so I feel that whether I’m speaking to the audience about the music, or what we do, or playing my instrument, it’s all of a piece.” He adds that though there may be moments of technical display which are fun for the listener, an authentic performance is one where the “listener feels like they’re witness to a telling of some sort of truth, and that afterwards, even if only in some small way, they have been changed.”

Violinist Bethany Bergman

As a musician who is also constantly working, Fedyshyn’s collaborations are frequent and varied. He speaks enthusiastically about premiering a new concerto written specifically for him by the HPO’s composer-in-residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte last season. And looking ahead, he has already met with mezzo-soprano Stacie Dunlop, a performer known for her impressive singing and big performance risks, to discuss collaborating on another composition by Richardson-Schulte, ideally for performance next year. Fedyshyn imagines other desirable collaborations involve soloists that he would like to see come through the HPO. As one example, he names Angela Cheng performing Shostakovich Piano Cto. no.1: “That would be really fun, and I’ve always wanted to do this piece.” There are so many great artists that he would love Hamilton to have the opportunity to experience onstage, that it’s hard to pick. And on the more experimental end of things, he would love the opportunity to work with electronic musicians, “mixing our instruments with their sounds…”

Considering his rich and collaborative career, I express curiosity about what advice he’s received over the years. “There is so much “best” advice I’ve received, all of it useful at different times, some of it serious, some extremely funny,” he smiles. “We learn from our mentors, and then our colleagues for our whole careers (lives, even?).” Now years later, he finds himself still processing some of that advice and coming to new realizations. “I’ve had, and continue to have, wonderful colleagues who are insightful, generous, rapier-witted, and passionate about this art,” he offers. I wait pregnantly for a profound observation  . . . and I am not disappointed when Fedyshyn shares one of the “funny but true” things that his first teacher advised him as a young player: “‘When you’re at the reception after a concert, don’t forget to eat – there’s a reason food is served with the drinks.’ Of course, this was delivered with a twinkle in his eye,” Fedyshyn adds, with a twinkle of his own, “as he knew that a young brass player beginning their career would never forgo free drinks after a performance!”

When I ask him for final thoughts about Saturday’s performance of “Sound the Trumpet…and Violin!”, his first response is how fortunate he feels to share the program with his wife Bethany. His second message is for the young people in the audience. He has difficulty putting into words what music encompasses for those who, like him, have chosen to pursue it as a career. “I can distinctly remember being a young person and coming to the realization in a lesson with my first teacher, that you could do this as a ‘job’, and thinking ‘why didn’t anyone tell me about this? This is what I want to do….’ ” As both a musician and a father, he would like the young people in Saturday’s audience to realize that “there is a deep, deep world of music out there, and if what I do sparks curiosity in a young person, or inspires them in some way to learn more about any of it, then I’d be happy.”  

News You Can Use

Michael Fedyshyn

What: Sound the Trumpet…and Violin! featuring Bethany Bergman (violin); Michael Fedyshyn (trumpet); Angela Park (piano), and Rachel Mercer (cello)

  • Program:
  • Biber Sonata IV in C major for trumpet, violin and continuo
  • Mozart Duo in G major K 423 for violin and cello

  • Milton Barnes’ “Last Act”: A Theatre Piece for Trumpet and Piano 

  • Eric Ewazen Trio for trumpet, violin and piano

  • Piazzolla Tangos for ensemble

Who: Audiences of all ages

When: Saturday, March 4, 2017, 3:00 PM

Where: The First Unitarian Church,170 Dundurn Street S, Hamilton ON, L8P4K3

Information and Tickets: 5atthefirst.com

© 2017 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya

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